Allegations, Arrests & Court Appearances (Details)

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Durst now stands charged with offenses in two states:

•In California, he is charged in the 2000 slaying of Susan Berman.

•In New Orleans, where he was taken into custody at a hotel last month, he still faces weapons charges in federal court.

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April 23th, 2015:

After negotiations with Durst’s defense team, Louisiana ultimately dropped its weapons charges against Durst on April 23, 2015.  “It makes sense to try this case in federal court because FBI agents arrested Mr. Durst, and there shouldn’t be two prosecutions, state and federal, at the same time for the same crime,” DeGuerin said. Durst’s trial on the federal weapons charge is scheduled for September 21, 2015.

April 16th, 2015:

On April 16, 2015, Durst’s lawyers requested that more than $161,000 seized by authorities during their searches be returned, saying the cash “is not needed as evidence, is not contraband, and is not subject to forfeiture”.

April 10th, 2015:

A Federal Grand Jury has indicted Robert Durst on an official charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm which could send him to Federal prison for 10 years. The indictment was handed up and made public Friday (April 10th, 2015). Durst had been charged previously by a probable cause complaint in federal court, but federal rules require prosecutors to send the case to a grand jury. Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to rule that their case be tried before the Louisiana state case charging him with gun and weapons charges and the California murder case for the killing of Susan Berman.

The indictment charges that DURST, on or about March 14, 2015, unlawfully possessed a Smith and Wesson .38 caliber revolver, after having previously being convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, to wit: two convictions in 2004, in case number 04-667 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for, respectively, possessing a firearm while under indictment, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(n), and possessing a firearm while a fugitive from justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(2). The potential sentence in this case is a maximum 10 years incarceration in the Bureau of Prisons, a fine of $250,000, a maximum of three years of supervised release, and $100 special assessment fee.

April 8th, 2015:

On April 8, 2015, a day after the US Attorney filed an independent federal weapons charge, Durst was formally indicted by a Louisiana grand jury for carrying a weapon with a controlled substance and for the illegal possession of a firearm by a felon. “Now everyone is just piling on,” commented Dick DeGuerin.

March 23rd, 2015:

On March 23, 2015, Durst was denied bail by a Louisiana judge after prosecutors argued he was a flight risk. In an effort to hasten Durst’s extradition to California and avoid a protracted Louisiana court battle, DeGuerin raised questions about the validity of the New Orleans arrest and hotel room search, pointing out that a local judge did not issue a warrant until hours after his client was detained. While communicating with Los Angeles police and conducting an inventory of Durst’s hotel room possessions, “[t]he FBI . . . held him there, incommunicado, for almost eight hours”.

According to DeGuerin, Durst was questioned extensively, the morning after his arrest, by a Los Angeles prosecutor and detective without a lawyer present.

In failing to produce the arresting officers subpoenaed for a probable cause hearing, Louisiana prosecutors engaged in a “misguided attempt to conceal the facts from the court, the defendant, and the public,” wrote Durst’s lawyers in an April 3, 2015 court filing. Peter Mansfield, an Assistant US Attorney, said that his office instructed the two FBI agents and arresting officer not to appear, arguing that DeGuerin’s subpoenas were issued in an attempt to conduct “actions against them in their official capacities for the purpose of obtaining testimony, information and material maintained under color of their official duties.”

Speaking to reporters, DeGuerin confirmed rumors that Durst was in poor health: he suffers from hydrocephalus and had a stent put into his skull two years before, as well as spinal surgery and a cancerous mass removed from his esophagus. “I think that the surgery got it all. You never know,” said DeGuerin, adding that his client was eager to go to court. “He’s not in good health but he’s up for the fight.”

March 14th, 2015:

A few days after a first-degree murder warrant was signed by a Los Angeles judge, Durst was arrested by FBI agents on March 14, 2015, at the Canal Street Marriott in New Orleans, where he had registered under the false name “Everette Ward”. Durst, who had been tracked to the hotel after making two calls to check his voicemail, was observed wandering aimlessly in the lobby and mumbling to himself, having driven to New Orleans from Houston four days before. In addition to a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver loaded with four live rounds and one spent shell casing, police recovered five ounces of marijuana, Durst’s birth certificate and passport, a map showing Florida and Cuba, a “flesh-toned” latex mask covering the face and neck (with salt-and-pepper hair attached), the fake Texas ID used to check into the hotel, a new cellphone, and $42,631, mostly in $100 bills stuffed into small envelopes. Police discovered a UPS tracking number which led to an additional $117,000 cash, in a package sent to Durst by a woman in New York (not Durst’s wife) was seized after his arrest. Bank statements found in one of Durst’s Houston condominiums revealed cash withdrawals of $315,000 in little more than a month. Douglas Durst said he was “relieved” and “grateful” in a statement shortly after his brother’s arrest. He added, “We hope he will finally be held accountable for all he has done.” Durst later said he was “not confident” his brother would be convicted in Los Angeles. On March 15, 2015, New York State Police investigator Joseph Becerra, long involved with the Kathie Durst case and said to be working closely in recent months with FBI and Los Angeles detectives, removed some sixty file boxes of Durst’s personal papers from the home of a Durst friend in Campbell Hall, New York, where they had been sent by Durst’s wife three years before for safekeeping. On March 16, 2015, attorney Dick DeGuerin, who also represented Durst during his 2003 trial for the killing of Morris Black, advised court authorities in New Orleans that his client waived extradition and would voluntarily return to California “to get it on”. Late the same day, Louisiana State Police filed charges against Durst for being a felon in possession of a firearm and for possession of a firearm with a controlled substance, which could delay his return to California.,Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro commented that, in light of prior convictions which could influence Durst’s sentencing, “[j]ust for those gun charges here in Louisiana, [Durst] could face up to life in prison”.

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Previously:

In July 2014, Durst was arrested after turning himself in to police following an incident at a Houston CVS drugstore in which he allegedly exposed himself without provocation and urinated on a rack of candy. He then left the store and casually walked down the street. Durst was charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief. In December 2014, he pleaded “no contest” and was fined $500. His lawyer described the incident as an “unfortunate medical mishap”.

In 2012 and 2013, his family members had restraining orders taken out against him, claiming they were afraid of him. Durst was charged with trespassing in New York for walking in front of townhouses owned by his brother Douglas and other family members. He went on trial and was acquitted in December 2014. The judge also vacated the thirteen orders of protection his family members had taken out on him.

In 2001, Durst was arrested in Galveston, Texas, shortly after body parts of his senior neighbor, Morris Black, were found floating in Galveston Bay, but he was released on bail. Durst missed his court hearing and was declared the nation’s first billion-dollar fugitive. He was caught in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at a Wegmans Supermarket, after trying to steal a chicken sandwich and a Band-Aid, even though he had $500 cash in his pocket. A police search of his rented car yielded $37,000 in cash, two guns, marijuana, and Black’s driver’s license. (Acquitted of murder by a jury on November 12, 2003. In 2004, Durst pleaded guilty to two counts of bond jumping and one count of evidence tampering. Sentenced to 5 years in prison.)

  • Trial

In 2003, Durst went on trial for the murder of Morris Black. He hired well-known defense attorney Dick DeGuerin and claimed self-defense. During cross-examination by Galveston District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk, Durst admitted to using a paring knife, two saws and an axe to dismember Black’s body before dumping his remains in Galveston Bay. The jury acquitted him of murder.

In 2004, Durst pleaded guilty to two counts of bond jumping and one count of evidence tampering. As part of a plea bargain, he received a sentence of five years and was given credit for time served, requiring him to serve about three years in prison.

Durst was paroled in 2005. The rules of his release required him to stay near his home; permission was required to travel.

  • Second arrest

In December 2005, Durst made an unauthorized trip to the boarding house where he killed Black and to a nearby shopping mall. At the mall, he ran into the presiding judge from his murder trial, Judge Susan Criss. Due to this incident, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles determined that Durst had violated the terms of his parole, and he was returned to jail. However he was released again from custody on March 1, 2006.


Other:

Durst was the only named suspect in the disappearance of his first wife, medical student Kathleen McCormack, who vanished in 1982. The couple lived in Westchester County, north of New York City. No charges were ever filed in the case. (Eighteen years later, investigators looking into the McCormack disappearance contacted Berman. She was later found dead with a gunshot wound to the back of her head. No one had been charged in her death until now.)

 

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According to the seven-page report, on May 10, 1995, Durst was spotted by a member of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office on Lansing Street standing outside his light blue Ford Taurus. According to the report he then “staggered to the rear of the vehicle” and was “swaying side to side.” He got back into the Taurus, headed north, and then “crossed over the yellow line three times.”

The sheriff’s officer had trouble getting Durst to pull over, as he seemed “confused as to my demands.” Once stopped, Durst, reeking of alcohol, according to the report, “staggered” toward the officer. He had difficulty finding his wallet and, in “a slurred speech,” asked the officer why he had been stopped. Durst acknowledged that he had consumed “a bottle of wine” at Cafe Beaujolais, a popular upscale restaurant in Mendocino.

Durst then failed a series of field sobriety tests administered at the scene: he couldn’t keep his balance on one leg; he had trouble counting; he couldn’t stand without swaying; he couldn’t touch the tip of his nose. The officer had to stop him from walking into traffic. Durst was subsequently taken to the sheriff’s substation in Fort Bragg, where he was administered a urine test.

An envelope containing $3,700 in cash and a baggie with less than an ounce of marijuana was found in Durst’s trunk—a combination that would repeat itself in Durst’s encounters with the law for the next two decades. Then, in classic Durst fashion, with phrasing familiar to anyone who watched The Jinx, Durst uttered that “the money and marijuana is mine and that I have always smoked it, even as a kid. . . . So what’s the big deal?”

Durst was released the following morning on $9,500 bail. The result of the urine test showed he was below the legal blood alcohol limit. (The next day, Durst’s father Seymour suffered a debilitating stroke. Within a matter of a few days, Durst appeared in New York City at the hospital bed of his stricken father, who died on May 15, shortly after his eldest son’s visit.)